The ‘Uber’ application popped up the booked cab details. The name of the driver was interesting, ‘Nek’. While I was struggling to button my shirt in a rush, my mind afforded to spend little time to acknowledge the uniqueness of this name. The first impression which flashed in my mind was, it is ‘Nick’ and somehow got misspelled in the Uber application. Just before I could conclude it is Nick, I questioned myself why can’t it be Nekchand with ‘Chand’ chopped off from the application for lack of space. By then, I was done with buttoning my shirt and concluded the little momentary ‘Vimarsh’ by saying to myself…whatever!
Do you want the air conditioner be turned on sir? Nek asked me. This to me meant, he did not want to switch on AC and was hoping to hear the same from me. By the way winters has started showing its sign, so I was more or less okay without AC. Just that I got an initial impression that Nek is quick to grab any opportunity to save money, and it is fine to me. I asked him to close the window wherever we encounter dust.
Shall I turn on the FM radio sir? Nek turned back and asked. Why would I mind it, go ahead and play it. We were still at the red light; Nek could afford to turn back again. I see you are reading a book which is why I thought I should ask you, he said. I responded, it is okay, listening songs is better than listening to not so musical traffic. By the way what book are you reading sir?
It was 12.10 PM, I checked the time while I was reading those lines from my favorite book.
भोग न होने से त्याग नहीं होत. पहले भोग करो, फिर त्याग होगा . स्वामी बोले, “हुआ क्या? लोग सन्यासी तो हो नहीं पाये, अगृहस्थ हो गये. कर्म – जो उनका धर्म था – से विमुख हो गये. सारे के सारे लोग, वस्त्रो से तो सन्यासी हो गए; किन्तु उनका मन सन्यस्त हो नहीं सका. उसके लिए अपेक्षित तपस्या – कर्म तपस्या, तो किसी ने की नहीं थी. वे न इधर के रहे न उधर के.
“पर भगवान बुद्धा ने तो उन्हें मोक्ष मार्ग ही दिखाया था. तो फिर ये उत्पात कैसे हो गया?”
“जिस समय बौद्ध राज्य में एक एक मठ में एक एक लाख साधु हो थे, उस समय देश अपने सर्वनाश की ओर अग्रसर हो रहा था।” स्वामी कुछ आवेश में बोले, “बौद्ध, जैन, इशाई, मुस्लमान – सभी का ये भ्रम है कि सारे मनुष्यों के लिए एक ही कानून और एक ही नियम है.
English Translation: If there is no enjoyment how can there be sacrifice? Do pleasures, and then do sacrifice. Swami said, “What happened? People could not become monks and rather abstained from family life while pretending to do sacrifice. Karma – which was their faith & duty, they became alienated from. All of the people became monks through their attire, but their mind could not attain monkness. No one could perform the required level of discipline. They are neither here nor there.
“The Lord Buddha showed them the way to salvation. Then why it lead to spiritual chaos?”
“At the time of peak of Buddhism, millions and millions of people became monks and monastery grew in size but it witnessed the start of the decline of the country and soon restoration to Dharmic traditions.” Swami said in a huff, “Buddhist, Jain, Christianity, Islam all had been in the illusion that all human issues can be addressed by same laws and the same rules.
I was reading the very interesting commentary on world religions by Swami Vivekananda, especially on Buddhism and was in no mood to leave it for tomorrow. But honestly it was too late, considering I had to beat the peak traffic to reach office in time.
This is a novel based on Vivekananda’s life, I responded to curious Nek. Nek said – Oh great, I draw lot of inspiration from him. I spotted his picture on the book cover, so asked you. By the way, he was an Aryasamaj saint right? He asked in anticipation of my confirmation of this fact. I was on the edge of ridiculing his claim of drawing inspiration from Vivekananda but his query about Swami’s association with Aryasamaj made me little curious. The fact is, during his college days Vivekananda used to participate in Aryasamaj meetings. After he met Ramakrishna Paramhans, his quest for absolute got him on the decisive odyssey and he disassociated himself from Aryasamaj. I was not at all ready to counter a cab driver curious to engage in a discussion about one of the greatest philosopher and spiritual master. He was told a half truth, I immediately presumed he belonged to Aryasamaj and he might have been told so by the representatives of Aryasamaj.
He is the one who rejected idol worship right, Nek insisted. Now I got it, Vivekananda’s picture resembles to that of Dayananda Saraswati who started Aryasamaj and worked against idol worship in the society. This might be the reason why Nek got confused with Vivekananda’s stand. Anyways, I clarified to him, it is not so. Vivekananda started with asking questions over so many things including idol worship but during his spiritual journey he not only got his answers but through his works restored the faith of many in Hindu Dharma.
By then both of us were clear about each other’s sides. Nek suddenly declared, he is an Aryasamaj follower. His spontaneity in making this confession suggested that he was anticipating few words of criticism for Aryasamaj from me. Ok great, so you do not believe in idol worshiping, I asked the redundant question, just to extend the conversation on the same topic. While he was answering to confirm he is against idol worship, I had simultaneously fired another question, what is it which makes you so critical of idol worshiping? It is superstition, how can one treat a lifeless object as God, which he himself manufactures and then sells and buys. Isn’t it amusing, he chuckled. Nek did not stop at this; he extended his argument by declaring Ram, Krishna and Shiva as non-Gods. At best they could be great human beings who achieved greatness through their deeds during their lifetime. There is only one absolute Paramatman (God) who is formless and omnipresent! God is supreme and cannot be bound to an idol or a human body for that matter. These words coming from a cab driver was heartening, irrespective of my agreement or disagreement with him. He sounded convinced about what he spoke. I was sure it was not a mugged up speech about what he was taught by his masters. He appeared to have put in some thought over it.
What is it, which you are calling as “Paramatman” (Super Consciousness)? We all are Atman, right? So how is Paramatman different from that of mine or your Atman, of course if you think it is different? I bombarded with couple of questions for Nek. The idea was not to seek answers from him but to draw his attention to a line of thought which I proactively designed for him. Nek was intelligent enough to make out, I was playing with words. He answered; we all are Atman but not Paramatman. For a while he paused, but in fear of getting caught in the game of words he added – Only a Shuddha (Pure) Ataman can be graduated to be called as Paramatman. What is a Shuddha Atman (pure consciousness) then, I further inquired. One which is pure by his/her conducts, who has purity in thoughts and deeds, he said. What is a pure deed or thought, I was not ready to leave it at that. Nek was quick to respond, it is being truthful, honest and compassionate in one’s behavior and conduct. So now you have conceded that there are number of Paramatman, one which you initially declared of being formless and then there are few among us human beings who through their Shuddha karma (pure deeds) could graduate to become Paramatman. And since you agreed, there cannot be one absolute formless Paramatman as per your original definition. For that matter any number, including ‘one’ rules out the subject being formless or being omnipresent. If it is measured in number, it means it has to be defined so clearly that its existence be secured from other things/subjects around, to the extent that one can clearly recognize and say – here it is. Only ‘infinite’ and ‘zero’ can claim to be formless.
At last Chhatarpur red light turned into green and we could take the right turn. The turn helped Nek to have his moment to ponder and come up with something to counter me. Probably it was too short for him to collect his thought and invent something but he at least tried to clear his stand very honestly. Sir, I am little puzzled in those words and because I am not educated enough I am unable to explain what I meant. But one thing I am clear about is my basic understanding which is – Paramatman is one, formless and omnipresent.
Honestly, I felt bad for I made him feel inferior for his lack of education. Nek, first of all let me clarify that you have more knowledge than many of the so called educated. It is not the knowledge but the constantly thinking mind, is what matters and I see you can think. I was asking these questions to partly trap you in your own arguments but more so to logically explain to you about ‘Paramatman’ through your own criteria. Mind you, what I am telling is what I could understand by applying logics and little bit of my imagination, which means it is certainly not the absolute explanation of Paramatman. It can be best understood or known through experience which we are far from, at the moment. I started explaining to him; you are correct in your understanding that Paramatman is formless and omnipresent. If one has to point out one single thing which has supremacy over every particle of this universe it has to show the first characteristic of having control over everything, to have control over everything would mean to have presence in everything. It is like we can control our own body but not other’s body. In other words, we are conscious of our body and is called Atman, so one whose consciousness extends to the whole universe will be called as Paramatman (Param + Ataman; ‘Param’ means extreme). You would agree then; Paramatman is in me, in you, in all the ‘Shuddha’ Atman and also in all the so called ‘Ashuddha’ (Impure) Atman. We can further stretch this and say that there is nothing called as ashuddha Atman, how can it be, if is the constituent of Paramatman.
So, how do you explain all these sins committed by human beings or should I say by Paramatman. He made a sarcastic remark. If I commit a sin, why should I not hold Paramatman responsible for that….by your logic? I realized Nek is not an easy nut. It was now my turn to take a pause, not that I did not have answer but I was thinking, how to explain it to him in the simplest manner so that he can understand.
Do you watch cricket, I am sure every Indian does. I asked the question and answered myself anticipating what if he doesn’t, I would lose a very good example I could think of in that moment. India versus Pakistan must be everyone’s favorite encounter. When the match is played between the two teams on the field, the teams need to express their cricketing skills against each other. Shoib Akhtar would bowl his best bouncer to Sachin to get him out and Sachin would certainly not appreciate it. He would counter with best of his ability to hook the ball out of the fence. On the field whatever players would do, would purely be against the opposite team. A player might do awful thing on the field, possibly against the cricket rule and he would be punished by cricketing community for that. You can call it a cricketing sin right. The player committed the sin because he played cricket. Should this be interpreted that, to avoid making the awful sins let us respect each other’s team and not play the game? The moment all the world cricket teams realize they all are same and decide to not play against each other, that very moment ‘cricket’ would disappear from the world. Nek, if teams are Atman, Cricket is the Paramatman. India cannot become world champion of cricket (Paramatman in cricketing sense) without playing it against other teams. If you extend the cricket field to this world or universe, you would realize that it is nothing but the manifestation of Paramatman. The ‘worldly’ goods and bads are the playful expression of Paramatman.
I realized that Nek was liking this conversation, infact he reduced the speed of the car considerably. I liked it too. I have just one confusion then, if everyone has that Paramatman in them, how did Ram and Krishna have special mention? This to me was relatively easy one to answer, I could just say, “in each class there is one best student” but I was looking for some other example which can help to address this question to its root. I decided to take my previous example of cricket for this one too. Ever since this game of cricket has been played there have been thousands of players who played it and hundreds out of them played it very well. But there have been very few, could be counted on fingers, whom you would credit for defining the way it is played. Everyone in cricket would aspire to come close to the benchmark of excellence set by them. One can say – while other players played it for the need of their cricketing instincts but these legends played it for the need of taking the world’s cricket to next level, or to evolve cricket to next level. Their impact is not just reflected in their record books but on many generations of world cricket. Likewise Ram and Krishna are not just conscious of their human body but are the best possible expression of Paramatman through a human body. When Krishna showed his ‘Virat Roop’ (supreme form), Arjun could see everything of the universe manifested through Krishna which included the Gods and the demons both. Even today there are Yogis on Himalayas who have attained Yogic power which makes them conscious beyond their physical body. Just for logical purposes and in lack of perfect word, you can say Ram and Krishna had similar Yogic power beyond any limitation. For few these attributes qualify them to be called as Paramatman.
We reached the destination but the curious Nek asked one more question and promised me that this would be the last. Could you clarify me, if we are Paramatman in ourselves why should one worship an idol? You are very intelligent Nek. I would only say, one who knows and who can experience that Paramatman in them, certainly do not need to worship an idol. Suddenly I recalled one incident cited in the very book which I was reading. Vivekananda faced similar question from the king of Khetari state. I thought it was the best way to explain to him. Do you keep pictures of your grandfather or any of your loved ones? I am sure you would not spit on those pictures despite knowing it well that these are just piece of papers. You somehow see your loved ones in those pictures, right? When you see the national flag, you feel something. You respect it because you treat it symbolizes your motherland. Nek, you are a wonderful thinker and I feel you have potential to see Paramatman in everyone, so you might not need to worship an idol but different people have different ways of thinking and imagining the Paramatman. Everyone is different from each other and so is their way of looking at the world, which also reflects in their understanding of Paramatman. You can say that the understanding that Paramatman is formless and is present in every particle of universe is the ultimate concept but question is how many have the ability to comprehend the absolute truth. I explained to you about this concept but honestly speaking even I do not possess the capability to live it. Knowing it is altogether different from experiencing and living this concept. The moment one reaches that point, the ‘Aham’ (Ego) will loosen itself to merge with the absolute to become ‘Bramhan’. All those preachers you see on TV, speaking fluently about the absolute truth, none have this capability. But not having this capability is not a sin, nor could it be achieved in a moment. It requires honest/open mind, lot of thinking, believing, imaginative ability, creativity and lot of practice through truthful conduct to reach to that level. And all these cannot start in lack of a symbol. I mean a thought also is in terms of various symbols. When a child is born, he/she is attributed with a name to recognize its individuality. What is it? nothing but a symbol. We are not our names but ‘Atman’, manifestation of ‘Paramatman’. The civilization came into the picture on the premise of symbols. So now, I guess you would have understood that to reach the ultimate truth you have to start from basic knowledge. In order to graduate in mathematics, you have to take admission in class 1 to learn about numbers one, two, three… about alphabets ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’ etc. By the time one reaches to high school the mathematical sums get more complex. In order to solve them we start using algebra, mathematical induction. We start by assuming the answer be ‘X’ and then step by step reach to the resolution and get to know the true value of ‘X’. One has to start with ‘Dvaita’ to reach to ‘Advait’. The Hindu Dharma has provided enormous flexibility and freedom, to choose your way of knowing Paramatman and hence expressing your devotion and love for him. We have the freedom to choose our own personal Gods which can help in our endeavor for truth. A poor farmer in a village can worship a tree if he derives his devotion – pure expression of love through that. Why should he wait to have the absolute knowledge before he performs his karma? He must be least bothered to know more if his spiritual quest is satisfied with his devotion for the neighboring tree and the stone formation lying under it. Everyone in the society need not be a seer or a scientist. Every individual is different, hence different Dharma for different individuals. Hey Nek, by the way, by Dharma I do not mean the English word ‘Religion’, and now I do not have time to explain the difference between Dharma and religion. Very quickly, ‘Dharma’ is to do with your personal duty. I am getting late for the office, but it was very nice talking to you. Nek responded with a very humble look at me with a momentary silence and then said, thank you very much sir for explaining those things in such a manner. I would love to meet you again if possible. Thanks a lot. I smiled and rushed for the office.
I called Juhi in the evening and shared with her about the ‘Nek’ thing happened in the morning. While telling her about this, I sensed a little pride within myself. I was feeling proud of the fact that I could convince someone with so much of clarity. I was appreciating and congratulating myself in my subconscious mind for ‘My’ intellect. Suddenly Nek flashed in my mind, I realized he was better placed than me in terms of loosening his “Ego” to know. Though I consider myself having worked well enough on my ego but I observed a sign of pride in me, of knowing in that moment which contributed to an enhanced ‘Ego’.
This was “My Vivekananda Moment” to realize the “Ego” of knowing which drags one away from the known.